Laconia is a city in Belknap County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 16,411 at the 2000 census, which makes it the 9th-largest city in the state. It is the county seat of Belknap County. Laconia, situated near Lake Winnipesaukee, includes the villages of Lakeport and Weirs Beach. Each June for nine days beginning on the Saturday of the weekend before Father’s Day and ending on Father’s Day, the city hosts Laconia Motorcycle Week, also more simply known as ‘bike week’, one of the country’s largest rallies, and each winter, the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby. Laconia includes a branch of the New Hampshire Community Technical Colleges.
Laconia History: A large Abenaki Indian settlement called Acquadocton Village once existed at the point now known as The Weirs, named by colonists for fishing weirs discovered at the outlet of the Winnipesaukee River. Early explorers had hoped to follow the Piscataqua River north to Lake Champlain in search of the great lakes and rivers of Canada mentioned in Indian lore. About 1652, the Endicott surveying party visited the area, an event commemorated by Endicott Rock, a local landmark. A fort would be built at Laconia in 1746. But ongoing hostilities between the English, French, and their respective Native American allies prevented settlement until 1761, after which it remained for many years a part of Meredith and Gilford called Meredith Bridge.
Beginning in 1765, lumber and grist mills were established on Mill Street, with taverns built soon thereafter on Parade Street. About 1822, the courthouse was built, which would become county seat at the creation of Belknap County in 1840. In 1832, the Belknap Mill was built to manufacture textiles; largely unaltered, the structure is today a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Local industry produced lumber, textiles, shoes, hosiery, knitting machinery and needles. But the city’s largest employer would be the Laconia Car Company, builder of rail, trolley and subway cars. Started in 1848, it lasted until the 1930s. The railroad entered town in 1849, carrying both freight and an increasing number of summer tourists to popular Weirs Beach.
In 1855, Laconia was incorporated as a town from land in Meredith Bridge, Lakeport, Weirs and part of Gilmanton. The name was probably derived from the old Laconia Company, formed by Captain John Mason and the Masonian Proprietors to sell parcels of land during the colonial era. The Great Fire of 1860 destroyed most of Main Street from Mill to Water streets, followed by the Great Lakeport Fire of 1903, a blaze so fierce that fire companies were brought by train from as far away as Dover. Laconia was incorporated as a city in 1893.
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